By Lesley King
As this is my first blog for the Darwin Initiative I thought I’d do a nice intro to myself. Then I thought – well why not introduce the rest of the team! We have many new projects about to start with us – some of whom are entirely new to Darwin – so it would be nice to introduce ourselves and what we do.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the Darwin Initiative was launched in 1992 by Defra who have oversight of the programme. They were joined by DFID in 2011 but Defra still retains the role of overall management of the Darwin Initiative.
Since 2003, LTS has been contracted by Defra to provide support to the Darwin Initiative in varying forms. We’re a small company based in Scotland, Kenya and Malawi (as of January 2015!) and have been working in the field of development since 1973. Our job is to provide support to the Darwin Initiative programme including administration of the applications cycle, financial administration of projects, monitoring and evaluation of the programme and through targeted communications support the Darwin community to learn from what works. It takes a team of people to do all this work – we have busy periods in the year when it’s all hands on deck and quieter periods when only 1 or 2 of us are undertaking extensive work.
So who is who in our Darwin team?
Eilidh Young – Darwin Administrator
Eilidh has worked on the Darwin Initiative for over 10 years and is the person you’re most likely to speak to during your funding. Her name seems to cause much confusion so here is the definitive guide to pronouncing Eilidh’s name:
Eilidh = Ae – lee
Or as an easy alternative just think of Hayley but drop the ‘H’!
Don’t worry if you still can’t get it right – Eilidh would never be offended by the various mispronunciations of her name. In fact its generally a point of great humour to hear how her name can be pronounced by various nationalities.
Eilidh is the first point of contact for all Darwin projects both during application and during funding. She is something of an agony aunt for some of our projects and dispenses incredibly useful information on how to manage a Darwin project based on her long experience supporting these projects. She is a whizz of an administrator and a walking encyclopaedia of all our Darwin projects. Her particular favourites are the projects on cats – especially if they send her pictures of cats.
Lesley King – Technical Lead
That’s me. I’ve worked on the Darwin Initiative for 7 years now and I’m the Technical Lead and responsible for managing the whole programme of work here at LTS. Where I spend most of my time is on conducting monitoring and evaluation of the projects and developing learning materials from this to share with the Darwin Initiative. It’s me that’s been behind much of our social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
My background is in marine conservation and I have a particular passion for tropical marine ecosystems with an extra special soft spot for sharks. However since joining Darwin I’ve had to become much more of a generalist conducting evaluations on projects covering diverse subjects such as microfungi, plant taxonomy, indigenous people and agriculture. I particularly enjoy deconstructing and reconstructing logframes with projects to develop useful, workable tools that really help them to demonstrate their impact. Hey – someone has to like logframes!
Dr Paddy Abbot – Contract Director
Paddy is our Contract Director at LTS and has worked on the Darwin Initiative for over 8 years. He has overall oversight of our work. He’s a forester by background though these days he tends to work on larger, multi-disciplinary programmes dealing with chronic environmental and climate change issues such as watersheds in Malawi. Paddy is an expert in monitoring and evaluation methods and challenges the team constantly to ensure our methodologies are robust and stand up to academic rigour. Paddy is also a great asset when it comes to the workshops we hold to support Darwin projects to develop coherent M&E plans that are useful and not a burden.
Zoe Hyde – Finance Director
Zoe is the Finance Director at LTS and lends a hand on the financial administration of the Darwin Initiative. She is a chartered accountant and comes into her own during application time when she reviews all the accounts and annual reports of applicants against our eligibility criteria. Zoe is also involved in processing financial claims, spot audits and review of financial guidance to projects. She’s very much behind the scenes of the Darwin Initiative but critical to ensuring things remain on track financially.
Simon Mercer – Senior Consultant
Simon is very new to the Darwin team. He joined us in January having just finished a PhD at UEA looking at the issue of climate change and managing a protected area in Nepal. Simon is sharing a lot of the technical support Lesley has been providing to the Darwin projects – you should be seeing some learning notes being published in the coming months crafted by Simon. He’s looking forward to meeting you all at the New Projects workshop in March.
Jami Dixon – Research Associate
Jami is also very new to Darwin having joined at the same time as Simon in January. She has joined us to lead on a very specific project – a thematic review of poverty and the Darwin Initiative. You’ll hopefully have seen some of her interesting blogs on the subject. She’s recently completed a PhD at Leeds University on the issue of climate change in agriculture in Uganda and used to live and work in Uganda supporting an NGO working on similar issues. She has the joy of getting to sit about thinking about how to apply theoretical approaches to our very practical programme to get the most useful information out about what works.
Joanne has been working on Darwin for 2 years now and bridges the technical team and the administration team here at the Darwin Initiative. She’s doing all the administration for the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund but is also providing support to the technical team on the Darwin Initiative. She is the mastermind behind the Darwin newsletter and supports us in the various workshops we hold over the year. Despite a heavy workload she is also undertaking a part-time MSc at Edinburgh University in Environment and Development.
Victoria is also a recent addition to the Darwin team. She is passionate about wildlife conservation with time spent in Kenya and Paraguay working with local NGOs to support conservation efforts. She is also a data junkie and is particularly good at analysing large datasets which is useful for our programme level evaluation work – categorising and quantifying 900 projects into something usable takes some skill! We’ll shortly be losing Victoria for a few months as she’s off to Malawi for a posting supporting a project assessing Malawi’s biodiversity which will hopefully result in the development of management maps and guidance, community environmental education products, biodiversity catalogues and tourist maps and guides.
Victoria provides administrative support to the Darwin Initiative. She’s been with the team almost a year now and has successfully survived her first applications cycle. Considering we had over 350+ applications to stage 1 this year that is no mean feat.
As well as the core Darwin team here at LTS we have a whole panel of independent M&E experts who conduct the reviews of your annual reports, reviews of applications, support field-based evaluations. Given the diversity of Darwin projects we need a large panel of experts who have specific knowledge on the types of issues being tackled.